As a yoga teacher and an Outlaw, and as a particularly dude-like dude doing yoga, I’m often asked how I got into yoga in the first place.
My standby answer is of course, a girl.
But it might be fun to tell a bit more of my story than that.
I returned to the United States In 2002 after spending several years abroad. I spent most of my time in Nepal and East Timor learning how to shit while squatting over a hole in the ground, and running the small non-profit I founded. We succeeded in completing a few very special youth projects with my volunteers’ best efforts and perhaps in spite of me.
Perpetually under-experienced, I’ve always had a knack for leveraging my enthusiasm and hard work into opportunity.
Some might call this a talent for weaseling my way into places that I don’t belong. I see it as an expression of enthusiasm.
Whichever way you look at it, I had made it to the tiny, oil-rich nation of East Timor. Half of a war-torn island tucked in tight within the Indonesian archipelago, East Timor sits equidistant from Bali and Darwin, Australia and takes up an inordinately large space on the international stage.
In my time there I became something of a youth specialist and special confidant to the then Prime Minister—and Nobel Peace Prize winner—Jose Ramos Horta.
The day I left the country, Jose was shot in the back three times at his oceanside home.
The night before, I stood in that same driveway, hugging a man I affectionately called “Tio”. A man who loaned me motorbikes and pestered me about setting him up with the beautiful, young female volunteers of my organization.
Don’t get me started on how much pussy a Peace Prize will get you.
A man who I had come to care for deeply was wrestling to stay alive. He eventually recovered, but the person I was then did not. The incident affected me deeply and challenged me to take a look at my own family and my own country in a way that I never had.
For a handful of reasons, I moved back to Colorado, cultivated fallow relationships and started growing marijuana in my basement with my 18-year-old little brother.
It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
Our product was prized, and if you can remember back to the few years before marijuana was legalized in Colorado, then you might remember our brand. Remember “Mile High Thunder-Fuck”?
Yeah, that was ours (and a couple other guys who might rather not be mentioned.)
The stories of those days have their own relative merit and may one day fill their own volume. But for now, suffice it to say that this period of relative criminality, piggy-backed on my dedicated volunteerism, illuminated within me distinct forces of “good” and “bad”, each as deep-seated and entrenched as the other.
I forged my values and broke the law at once. I broke my word countless times and restored it for the last time, I hope. I was hurt, and I hurt others in return.
I know about truth because I know the price of lies—not because I know the Sanskrit word for it. I have robbed and been robbed and I know about integrity because I know what it’s like to have none—not because I can quote Patanjali.
Outlaw Yoga and the practices and principles that inform it come from my own, personal experiments with life. I teach from no other place than this.
I’m not an enlightened being.
I’m a sinner. I’m an Outlaw who has learned a few things along the way. I have my own host of demons and devils, challenges and opportunities, as well as a whole heap of first-hand experience in battling them. I encourage you to engage in your own personal experiments with this practice—with equal parts dedication, compassion, drive and detachment.
Yoga dared me to live my life like each moment was a choice.
Each choice we make is a chance to remake ourselves, and rewrite our reality as we deem fit.
Yoga empowered me to reclaim the authorship of my life, and I offer you the same imperative. We made this mess. But it’s nothing that can’t be cleaned up by the strongest people in the room:
This article is an excerpt from Justin’s new book “Outlaw Protocol: how to live as an outlaw without becoming a criminal.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Lauren Savory / Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Nikki Hoffman / Flickr